[This is not a spoiler-free review/recap of the episode. If you have not seen the episode yet, read it at your own spoiler risk.]
Episode 206: “Best Laid Schemes . . .”
Written by Matthew B. Roberts, Directed by Metin Hüseyin
After the excellence of episode 205,” Untimely Resurrection,” I knew it would be hard for episode 206, “Best Laid Schemes . . .,” to best the writing and acting seen last week. I think we all have high expectations of every single one of these episodes, and sometimes they exceed them and sometimes they fall woefully short. After my first viewing of episode 206, I thought it was just okay. There is a gradual increase in emotions and it ends in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scene mixed with yet another complication only Claire and Jamie seem lucky enough to constantly experience.
As these episodes proceed, especially if you are reviewing an episode, I find myself critical of some external details. They don’t necessarily impact the story, but this episode was the first of this season that I have had more than a couple problems with it. I, for one, am not that girl, fawning over every moment and repeatedly watching the episodes. I am more of a one and done girl. Okay, maybe two or three viewings on the rare episode that I fall in love with, like 101, 201, and 205.
Let’s delve deeper into my issues. When Murtagh learns from Jamie about Claire’s past (or is it the future?), they are speaking Gaelic in the courtyard of the Fraser home. Cut to the next scene and Murtagh is getting further explanation from Claire, in English, about how she came to be in this time. But who do we see in the background? Servants. With the secrecy and risk of Jamie and Claire’s plan and Claire’s story, why are they risking speaking in front of servants? Are we just assuming that they are that loyal or that they do not understand? It baffles me. Claire’s hand maiden (or lady’s maid), Suzette, is also privy to some of the information as she helps Murtagh dress to “steal” the Comte’s wine.
This episode takes place right after or soon after episode 205, and yet Claire’s pregnant belly has just exploded overnight. She was just wearing that beautiful stable dress in the previous episode which did not hint much at her being pregnant. Her belly’s growth had to be more pronounced for this episode due to what is about to happen, but it is a detail that is immediately noticeable as Claire enters the episode.
My final qualm is the mention of “the dark arts.” This brings up a nasty memory of Cranesmuir for Claire and the fact that she has been labeled in certain circles as “La Dame Blanche.” However, it is not Claire we are to be worried about in relation to King Louis XV’s upcoming executions of those associated with the dark arts. It is Master Raymond, yet nothing we have seen thus far in season two about him suggests he is associated with the dark arts. Is it because he sells poison and other curiosities? While book readers have better knowledge of this subject, non-book readers may scratch their heads.
I have been called out and corrected on previous reviews, so please do so if any of this just went over my head.
Now to the good stuff. This episode has some great Murtagh and Fergus moments, more than other episodes this season. All I could think about when Murtagh puts his dressy shirt on and is aghast at the cuffs is the Seinfeld puffy shirt. Fergus with the charades comment and his immediate reaction for being scoffed at are both great, and he remarking on Claire saying “Out of sight, Out of mind” to him is another great one. I do genuinely enjoy the funny moments thrown in with the darker, serious moments. It is something that mirrors the books. I think I laugh more than cry while reading Diana Gabaldon’s books and the same could be said for the television series.
Stanley Weber’s Comte St. Germain is given enough material in this episode to appreciate how conniving and demanding this “gentleman” is towards his so-called business partners and friends. While Stanley Weber is nice to look at, it is him in the wig and finery and coupled with a horrible attitude that makes him another character we love to hate because Weber is so damn good at it.
The ending sequence is magnificent because you have the Outlander trifecta, Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, and Tobias Menzies in this serious, angry, tumultuous triangle. Jamie and Black Jack are fighting and Claire is waiting in the wings to see what happens, yet she is having her own major crisis at the same exact time. It packs a wallop to the audience from every direction. It is a moment, or minute, of bated breath as you wait for the outcome, and all of the possibilities are bad. Yes, Black Jack gets it where it hurts, some sort of divine justice if there ever was. Jamie is arrested as he sees Claired doubled over in pain, more than likely losing their unborn child. If I could have eight seasons with Jamie, Claire, and Black Jack/Frank, I would be a happy girl.
While this review focuses on some issues with the episode, “Best Laid Schemes . . .” is still a good one.
Jamie (Sam Heughan) is at his desk, reflecting on his fight with Claire (Caitriona Balfe). Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) comes in to tell Jamie that Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) has been released from the Bastille. Murtagh does not yet know of Jamie’s promise to Claire. Jamie tells Murtagh he cannot duel, and Murtagh is pretty pissed that it is not happening. Magnus (Robbie McIntosh) brings in food and informs Jamie that Claire has gone to the hospital to help.
Claire is rather large and farther along in her pregnancy. She is walking around the hospital, tired and in discomfort. The King’s executioner, Monsieur Forez (Niall Greig Fulton), who also works at the hospital asks Claire to help him prepare a body for burial. He needs to leave to prepare to do his work for the King. He reveals to Claire that several people will be executed for practicing the dark arts and those who associate with them. The method of execution will be drawn and quartering to which he goes into great detail about. He throws out Master Raymond’s (Dominique Pinon) name to her.
Claire goes to Master Raymond’s store. Claire warns him of what is going to happen and persuades him to leave the city.
Jamie is massaging Claire’s feet. The promise is still bugging Jamie, so he brings it up again and points out that he has saved her life as well. They are “even.” He goes on to explain his reasoning for keeping the promise. If he dies at Culloden or someplace else, she must go through the stones and back to Frank. He wants someone to look after her in his absence. She promises him she will go back. Non-book readers, this must pique your curiosity if Jamie is dead when Claire returns to Frank in episode 201. Don’t worry, I won’t tell you!
The plan to thwart the Comte’s shipment of wine and Prince Charles’ purse proceeds. Claire has concocted mixtures of herbs to simulate the symptoms of small pox. This will be given to Comte St. Germain’s (Stanley Weber) men in the hopes that the harbormaster will destroy his stock once again. Unfortunately, Jamie is the guinea pig. (Where the hell is the puke bucket?!) Murtagh is still frustrated about the plan and probably not over Jamie’s backing out of a duel. Because of his anger, Jamie and Claire decide it is time to tell Murtagh Claire’s story.
Jamie meets Murtagh in the courtyard. We don’t hear him tell the story, but there are moments of Gaelic to be heard. Murtagh’s eyebrows are working in high gear in these shots. Of course, Murtagh believes Jamie, but hits him anyway for not telling him at the beginning. I would have liked to see Claire’s face when Murtagh hit him.
Jamie and Fergus leave to deploy the “small pox.”
Murtagh encounters Claire inside. He has written all the years she lived in the 20th century. He wants to know more details about what she knows about Culloden. She explains that she does not know about specific people’s fates.
Jamie and Fergus arrive in Le Havre. Fergus steals a couple of bottles of wine and Jamie spikes the bottles. Fergus returns them to the dining area where they are sure to be drunk, as well as painting nettle juice on the inside of coats.
Jamie returns home to Claire in Paris.
Jamie goes to the brothel to meet with Prince Charles (Andrew Gower). The Comte is also there. Claire’s plan has worked and Comte’s men are “infected” with something. Rather than giving up, they convince Jamie to transport the wine instead, much to his dismay and reluctance. Unfortunately, the Comte insists on coming along to protect his investment. Whoops! This is not Thelma and Louise, but I would still like to put both of them in a car and see what happens. Prince Charles can be the third wheel in the backseat.
Moving on to Plan B … Murtagh will disguise himself as a French (much to his disgust) robber with some employees of his own. He will steal the wine while Jamie and the Comte are travelling along with it. Claire is doubtful that this plan will work.
Claire and Jamie lay in bed together. Jamie feels the baby move and he talks to the baby. It is a sweet moment that leads to pregnant sex … again.
Claire goes to Louise de Rohan’s (Claire Sermonne) house to do some gossiping and drinking with the ladies. Claire’s mood is not the best and she becomes disgusted with the conversation. Claire suggests they do something about the poor, but it falls on deaf ears.
The Comte and Jamie are on the road with the wine when Murtagh and crew overtake them. The Comte raises his gun and points it at Murtagh. Jamie feigns saving the Comte from gunfire, but it was really to prevent Murtagh from getting hurt. Can I just say…If you have Murtagh’s eyebrows, don’t you think you should cover those suckers,too? Murtagh hits Jamie with a gun to knock him out.
Claire goes to the hospital with Fergus in tow. Claire is having more difficulty with the pregnancy and it is evident to Mother Hildegarde (Frances de la Tour). She makes Claire lay down and notices that Claire is bleeding, but she is not worried. She does make Claire stay at the hospital to sleep. She falls asleep on her back. Can you do that when you are that pregnant?
Oh woe is Prince Charles. He laments on the loss of the wine and his promised money. The Comte is still miffed as to how the robbers knew exactly where and what time they would be on the road. The Prince says he will take his life if he has to live in Poland. Woah there, buddy! Insulting the Polish will get you nowhere on this site! Oh, you are crying now? Good.
Jamie grabs some food and Fergus enters to tell him where Claire is and why. Suzette (Adrienne-Marie Zitt ) arrives with a message that Prince Charles requires his help at the brothel. He has run up a large tab and cannot pay. Jamie leaves to inquire.
At the brothel, Fergus leaves to snoop around and happens into an unlocked room. This room has an English soldier’s coat hanging in it. Fergus does not see the man enter, and we don’t get to see who he is either. (But I bet we can guess…)
Claire arrives back home. The servants are acting odd around her, and the reason is revealed. Jamie has left to duel with Black Jack Randall. Claire leaves the house with Magnus to the woods. Claire is obviously having problems with the baby at this point. If you have not seen Fast and Furious, then welcome to the 18th century version of it. Let’s take those corners a little slower next time, oui?
Claire needs help even walking to where Jamie and Black Jack (Tobias Menzies) duel. This does not bode well for anyone. She arrives to see them fighting but cannot say anything because she fears distracting them may prove fatal. Black Jack bites Jamie. Claire tries to call out when they are momentarily stopped, but the pain in her belly is too much. She cries out and we see blood spill on the ground from beneath her dress. Good one, Jamie, piercing Black Jack right where it hurts. After that injury, Claire cries out to Jamie and he hears her. Unfortunately, the police arrive at the same time to arrest Jamie and Black Jack for dueling. The episode ends with Claire passing out, Black Jack closing his eyes, and Jamie crying out to his wife.
Next week’s episode, titled “Faith,” airs May 21st on Starz.
“Claire is brought to L’Hopital Des Anges where doctors try to save her life and that of her unborn baby. King Louis asks Claire to judge two men accused of practicing the dark arts – one an enemy, one a friend.”
Source (Photos and Clips): Starz